Commuting by e-bike: 7 things you need to know

We take a look at whether a gravel e-bike really is the ultimate tool for commuting

Clock19:31, Tuesday 5th March 2024

Commuting by bike is on the rise. More and more of us are shunning the car in favour of pedal power for a number of factors but one of the key reasons is the growth of the e-bike sector. E-bikes can turn a commute from an arduous task that leaves you all hot and sweaty upon arrival at the office to a more convenient and easy mode of transport.

Investing in an e-bike as your main commuter transport can come with its reservations, especially if you’ve not used an e-bike before. So here Simon Richardson shares his top seven things that are worth knowing before committing to commute by e-bike.

1. Battery range anxiety is largely unnecessary

One of the most common questions surrounding e-bikes is how far you’re able to travel on them between charges. The exact range of an e-bike varies based on things like temperature, rider and luggage weight and route so putting an exact figure on it is impossible. Something that only becomes apparent through regularly riding an e-bike is just how little you worry about battery range.

The new Canyon Grizl:ON that we used in this video uses a 400Wh battery that is fairly standard for bikes of this type. It also has an additional range extender as an option if you are looking to head out for longer rides. A small illuminated panel is situated on the top tube that not only shows you what mode you’re in, but also what capacity remains in the battery. This allows you to easily manage the range. As a general rule the higher the level of assistance the less range you will get from a single charge.

If you’re ever caught out and the battery runs out before you get to your destination you can ride the bike like a standard bike. Sure, there is the added weight of the bike and the going might be tough on hills but you should not find yourself stranded.

2. Weight doesn’t matter for e-bikes

When you’re not riding an e-bike every bit of weight that you carry slows you down and can make riding uphills significantly more challenging. On an e-bike, this concern immediately disappears as the motor is more than capable of providing enough assistance to overcome any additional weight.

With this in mind fitting a rear pannier rack becomes a tempting option for carrying more things on your commute. This can make your day at work more comfortable as you’re able to carry exactly what you need without having to cut things down in the name of saving weight.

One of the greatest benefits of motor assistance is that it allows for wider and heavier tyres to be fitted at no penalty to the rider. This can have the added advantage of increasing puncture resistance as well as opening up different routes to work away from traffic.

3. E-bikes transform the experience of riding to work

E-bikes make riding fun and accessible for everyone. The assistance they provide opens up cycling to people who might not normally consider cycling as a main mode of transport. The assistance that an e-bike can provide can turn landscapes that are far from conducive to cycling into easily accessible ones.

E-bikes also feel more confidence-inspiring. Due to the added weight of the motor and battery around the bottom bracket of the bike, they typically feel more planted and secure on the road. For riders of all abilities, this can make e-bikes easier to handle, especially at higher speeds achievable on descents.

4. You feel safer riding an electric bike through traffic

One of the great benefits of riding an e-bike through congested roads is the increase in perceived safety they can provide. With the assistance of the motor, pulling away at traffic lights is an easy affair with the motor getting you up to speed quickly. This can remove any fear of getting swamped by the traffic behind you as you try and pull away.

5. E-bikes save you money vs a car

It is an unavoidable fact that e-bikes cost significantly more than a regular analogue bike with a comparable build. The reason behind this is that the added complexity of a motor and battery comes at a cost. If you’re looking to replace your car, or at least some of your journeys by car with an e-bike you might actually be able to offset a lot of the added cost associated with an e-bike.

A recent study in the USA has found that the average motorist spends around $2,200 per year on vehicle maintenance. As a rule, the total cost of maintenance will increase in line with how much use the vehicle gets so reducing your mileage could bring you significant savings. When you factor the fuel savings on top of this, switching from a car to an e-bike could have you saving money within the first year of ownership.

It is worth noting that e-bikes are not without their own hidden costs. Firstly you do need to charge the battery, which is not free. In the UK with current electricity rates a 500Wh e-bike battery will cost around 22 pence to fully charge so even if you charged it daily that would equate to £80 per year or around one full tank of petrol.

On top of that, there is routine maintenance such as replacement drivetrain components, tyres and bearings however this will typically not exceed a few hundred pounds each year unless you have a particularly testing route that involves a lot of deep puddles and mud.

6. You tend to sweat less riding an e-bike vs a regular bike

For summer months in particular riding a bike to get around can be sweaty work. Depending on where you are heading this may or may not be an issue. If you are commuting across town for a business meeting or are simply heading somewhere where you cannot get a shower, cycling might not be the best solution, leaving you in a hot and sweaty state.

With an e-bike, you can let the motor do a lot of the heavy lifting although you do have to put some power through the pedals for the motor to kick in. The motor encourages you to ride at an easier output keeping you cooler and presentable at the other end. For a lot of people, this is one of the main game changers of an e-bike.

7. An e-bike can make your commute faster

This really does depend on your route. For flatter journeys, the likelihood is that an e-bike will be no quicker than a regular bike for a rider with some level of cycling fitness. This is because an e-bike has a motor threshold of 25km/h meaning that above this speed the motor provides no assistance.

On a hillier route or through an urban area with lots of stop-start traffic the e-bike can definitely speed up your commute. The ability to cruise up hills with the aid of the motor as well as pulling away and accelerating up to speed at traffic lights all factor into a faster journey.

For all riders, no matter their ability, using an e-bike is a great way to make cycling an easy and attainable mode of transport without the physicality associated with a regular bike.

For more e-bike content make sure to check out our e-bike-specific page on the GCN website and make sure to let us know if you commute by e-bike in the comments section below.

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